Skate Colorado: Jerry Hahn

Jerry Hahn

SKATE COLORADO
JERRY HAHN
INTERVIEW by MERK
PHOTOS BY COBURN HUFF

What do you get when you mix together epic countryside, friendly skateboarders, 300 days of sun, a strong DIY ethic, a huge backyard scene and municipal skateparks that are second to none? Colorado! Here are just a few of the core people that make it happen in Colorado. We could fill the whole mag, if we were to interview everyone, so sit back and enjoy and then come on out for a visit. – MERK

Let’s talk about where you are from and when did you start skating?
I’m from a little town outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I started skating because all the cool people that were into punk rock were skating. I was 15 when I started skating.

That was the mid ‘80s. Were you one of those launch ramp rats like me?
Definitely. It all started on the street seeing people doing bonelesses and hopping up curbs and doing acid drops off picnic tables and then we got into the launch ramps.

What town were you born in?
Catasauqua. The only other person I know in the skate scene from there is Danny Pensyl. He grew up in my little town too. He was a little grom.

He’s a super nice guy. I’m assuming it was a working class, blue-collar town, right?
Absolutely. It was right outside of Bethlehem, so Bethlehem Steel, Mack Trucks and that sort of stuff were around there.

So you were a punk rocker skateboarder in a blue-collar town. Did you get a lot of friction?
It was kind of weird because I was in both worlds. I was a jock and I was also into punk rock. Actually, a lot of people in my town were. All the wrestlers and football players were into punk rock. Everyone listened to the Rezillos and the Pork Dukes and all that old English punk. We had a great scene. Almost every band back in the day came through my little town, from the Dead Kennedys to the Circle Jerks to the Freeze. It was a sick scene to grow up in for skating and music. My high school graduates about 120 people a year, yet we had D.O.A. play at the Playground. It was pretty cool.

No kidding. Wow. You guys just kind of had that inside connection then, huh?
One of the main promoters was a guy named Paul Squat. He had a band, Russian Meatsquats, and he got all the bands to come to our little town because they would go to Philly or New York, which is pretty close to us. He started to get them to come up to our little neck of the woods, which is about an hour and a half from both those places.

What made you want to do the pilgrimage to come out to Colorado?
Well, I went to school in New Jersey, and after New Jersey, I went to school in North Carolina. After North Carolina, I went to South Carolina and from there I made the move out here. It took a while before I got out here.

You traveled around a bit before you decided to settle on Colorado, huh?
It was schools. I went to school in Jersey for four and a half years and I went to school in Raleigh for four years, so that’s why I was in those places. When I moved to Charleston, I started getting into roundwall and skating bowls. That’s how I ended up in Charleston. I wanted to skate the Hangar everyday.

So you got to hang out with Leaphart and Hank and all these cats?
Yep. They pretty much taught me how to ride round wall. They were telling me how to hit those hips and all that shit.

I got to meet you at Skatopia because you were down with all those original guys from the Farm. Why come to Colorado?
I knew I didn’t want to live in Charleston. It really wasn’t the place for me. I have a Master’s degree and I was trying to get a good job and Charleston was a pretty un-technological place to be.

What did you get your Master’s in?
Industrial Design. I don’t use it too much, but yeah, I have a Master’s.

Why Colorado?
Well, Science and his girlfriend, Mika, were going on a three-month road trip and I was like, “Dude, I’m down. I’m going.” We called it the 2001 Skate Odyssey and we traveled from North Carolina up to Vancouver and hit places in between. We got submerged in Denver, Seattle and Portland. We’d stay at different places for a week and skate the local spots. I was putting my feelers out there to see where I wanted to move because, after the road trip, I knew was going to move somewhere. Denver had the best weather, the best people and the best terrain. Between those three things, I couldn’t find a better place to live.

Did you know a lot of people in Colorado when you decided to settle here?
No. Mika knew some girls down here, so we stayed there for a week and we met Caleb and Terrill and they had the Humbler going. We met Tuck. He had just moved here. We went to the Denver City Park all the time and we were hanging out on the beer bench, because it was legal to drink a beer at the skatepark. That was pretty unheard of on the East Coast. As soon as I got back from that tour with Science, I grabbed all my shit in Charleston and headed out here around Halloween that year.

In 2001, there was some concrete stuff in the mountains and there was a little bit of stuff going on at the Front Range, right?
Yeah, I just knew it was the place to be. Between the people and what we had, it was pretty cool. It had backyards and skateparks and they’re both very important.

So you moved in with Terrill over there where the Humbler was, right?
First, I moved in with Tuck for a couple years. It took some coercing to get Terrill to let me move in there because the Humbler was falling apart and Terrill wasn’t that much of a carpenter. Caleb was gone, so I moved in there and started taking care of things. I was shoveling it out, fixing it up, and doing as much as I could to keep the thing alive.

Tell people about the Humbler and Caleb Moore, the brains behind it. That bowl was worldwide. It was a badass bowl.
Yeah, it was. We loved it. The pros couldn’t go there and just rip it up. It was humbling. It was hard to figure out. It had a crazy waterfall. The coping stuck out more than usual and it was a hand-poured lip. It was extremely hard to grind on it, let alone do stand ups and stuff like that. It was like a pool. It had a four-foot radius pocket, so it was difficult. Most people, when they build stuff out of wood, they build it to be easy and skateable, but I think Caleb has a different way with things. He wanted to make it challenging and it was.

Caleb was like a mad scientist carpenter. The Humbler had that one corner where two trannies dive into each other on the bottom, so you had to hit it high. Who do you think ripped the Humbler the best out of anyone that you’ve seen skate it?
Science Fair.

[Laughs] Science can ride anything.
He had it down. He ripped it up, for sure.

Did you get to ride the Vans Park in Westminster?
I did. I rode it for a little bit, but it closed not long after I lived here. I probably skated it more when I was on my road trips than when I lived here.

The Vans Parks started closing down and Colorado was one of those states that started blowing up with city parks. Why do you think Colorado is getting so many epic municipal skateparks? Do you think it’s keeping up with the Joneses or are the cities just more liberal-minded here?
I think they are pretty open-minded. Part of the reason I moved here was for the people. It wasn’t just the skaters. It was the attitude of everyone in the area. Some places are greener than other places, but, overall, everything that they fight for is for the future for kids. They saw that baseball fields and tennis courts weren’t being used, and everyone was jammed into this little skatepark. I think they used their logic and figured it out.

With all these epic parks that are getting built, do you think it has a lot to do with the fact that the builders that build these parks started living here, so they really tried to champion the skateparks?
Absolutely. People will get called out if they’re not building good parks where they live, so that’s why we like the people who live here to build the parks here. You don’t want people from Ohio to build parks here because they might not do as good a job because they don’t have the care for what people around here want.

Aside from the epic public parks, there’s such a strong DIY ethic here, and so many people have great pools. What is it about the DIY ethic? People can’t stop building.
Part of the thing is that we always have the task force around here ready to do stuff. Hanging out together and building stuff is just as much fun as hanging out and drinking or something like that. You hang out at someone’s house and start building and it starts to expand and people are pretty passionate about it. They’re making things right because we have pros out here that know how to make it right and everything just falls into place. It’s the right people and the right area.

What is the biggest misconception that people have about Colorado?
People think it snows all winter here and you can’t skate all winter, but the sun is close to us. It dries stuff off quicker. Rick had the YMCA kids shoveling out the bowl so they can skate. Everyone is coming together and getting things done.

Why are people so friendly here?
I think people out here are pretty well driven. Someone in Texas is like, “I can’t believe you guys. You smoke a lot of pot out here, but you get shit done. You don’t just hang out and do nothing.”

[Laughs] I remember when I first moved out here and I met you over at Bruce Adam’s ramp at the Skate Colorado compound. That’s when I first met Longboard Rick and he said, “Welcome. Do you want to go skate a bowl tomorrow?” What do you think makes people so friendly here?
I think the wrong people get weeded out here. It just naturally happens. Good people levitate towards out here and they’re easily accepted. People who are kind of evil, you can see that right away because there’s just a vibe that’s different. You just walk away from those people. No one wants to give them any attention so they’re going to go somewhere else where they can have their drama.

Let’s talk about your yard. A lot of people are doing concrete bowls in their yards, but you opted to do a wooden ramp with big vert walls.
It’s because I saw a lot of wood getting wasted and I’m a person that tries to recycle stuff. It just started with one ramp. That one ramp needed to come down and I said, “I’ll take it.” I had three or four ramps in my backyard under tarps. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with them, but I knew I wanted them. It all was pretty natural, actually.

You don’t want to see people throw ramps away just because all these concrete parks are getting built. There’s still a purpose for it, huh?
Yeah, a lot of these ramps weren’t being used. I take them apart and put them back together my way and we skate it a couple times a week. This is where ramps go to get skated.

Now you have all this Skatelite.
Skatelite is one of the most important things for a backyard complex. If you have the Skatelite, everything else that goes underneath it you’re going to come up with. When you have 50 sheets of Skatelite, you’re going to make something.

You were stocking things up for a while. I was hassling you like, “Let’s build something,” but you seemed to have a plan.
I didn’t really have a plan. It was all timing. I wasn’t ready to start it and, all of a sudden, Team Pain was working on the Broomfield Park. They had to tear down the old park, so I got the Skatelite, metal and framework, so I had a frame for underneath my wooden ramp. I took as much of the flat shit as I could, so I could lay my flat bottom on it.

On one of those jobs, Team Pain needed to house their workers, so you generously offered your house and put them to work.
Yeah, they were great. Lance and Curt helped out so much on this. I can’t even tell you how much. I just had to bribe them with a little bit of beer and it all came together. They would come home from work, and everyone was out in the back hanging out, having some dinner. They’re not just going to sit here and look. They’re going to help out because it’s in their nature. They’re good people.

It’s such a weird thing about skateboarding and skateboarders, especially the ones that work. I feel the same way. I can work my ass off for 12 hours and come home and, if I see someone working on a ramp, there’s no way that I can just sit there. There’s a work ethic involved in skateboarding. It’s a powerful thing. You’re an environmentally conscious guy and that’s why your ramp was dubbed the Recycler. How many ramps came together to build that thing?
I probably have seven or eight different mini ramps. I’ve got part of a vert ramp. I’ve got parts of a skatepark. I’ve got coping from different pools. I’ve got coping that was left over from Team Pain parks. It’s not just ramps. It’s anything that I could get my hands on that I thought I could use.

You’ve been running negativeion.com, for awhile. Tell me about that.
I’ve been doing that since ‘98. That was a project I started on when I was getting my Master’s degree and I had access to all this important equipment to put video on the computer. In ‘98, that shit wasn’t too happening, but I was a part of this big technological hub and I could use people that were smarter than me. I started traveling around and going to Skatopia and Charlotte and all over the place capturing all these images and video.

It turned into a creative outlet to document your travels. You have a good chunk of the 2001 Skate Odyssey tour on negativeion.com too, right?
Absolutely. I made a video that’s 50 minutes long and it’s pretty cool because it’s just us driving across the country and hitting all these different parks. You could watch the video and get a better idea of what was going on at these parks. We were doing beer ratings too for all the parks, so that helped put things in perspective for people like us. It was like, “Oh, that thing is a keg. We have to go check that one out.”

I like that. How many beer ratings would you give the Arvada skatepark?
I might have to give that a keg. That was the highest rating that we’ve ever given. We rarely give that one out, but yeah, Arvada is a keg.

How many beers would you give the Lafayette Skatepark?
Let’s give it two 24-packs in the cooler sitting right next to me.

How many beers for the Broomfield Skatepark?
That’s probably one 24-pack and that can be kind of warm. It doesn’t matter.

How many beers would you give the Denver City Skatepark?
That’s a tough one. I’d probably have to give that two cases also. The other thing is that when you rate these, you can’t just rate them on the terrain. You have to rate them on the environment also. Is it a cool place to hang out or are cops lurking around there yelling at you for shit? It’s more than just the terrain that goes into these ratings. It’s also about, “Are you allowed to drink there?”

I think Murf once said, “I’d rather skate a curb with my buddies than ride an epic vert ramp with a bunch of kooks.” The environment has a lot to do with it and that’s why I like your beer ratings. It’s not just a place. It’s the vibe. How many beers would you give to Roxborough?
[Laughs] That’s a couple party balls.

[Laughs] I love it. Negativeion.com is putting it together. I enjoy it a lot. You and Bruce Adams collaborated on a video called Skate Colorado?
It was called Skate Colorado: Mountains of Trannies.

That’s a good one. Can you still get your hands on that video?
I still have some. I got 1,000 printed and I probably have like 200 left.

Everyone should get one. Let me ask you this. What are the best and worst things about living in Colorado?
I’m out here because of the people, the weather and the skating.

Talk about the weather, because people may have a misconception. Some people think Colorado, and they automatically think about The Shining?
[Laughs] We have more sunny days here than in San Diego, so it’s sunny here a lot. The snow doesn’t stay here long. It does snow, but our winters are not like they were in Pennsylvania. I’m pretty sure we’re at about the same latitude, but there’s a big difference.

What do you think is one of the worst parts about living here?
[Laughs] People who drive slow in the fast lane.

They’re taking in the gorgeous scenery. They’re like, “Look at the Continental Divide. I live in a postcard. Ahhh.” Okay, aside from your backyard, what is your favorite spot?
I’ll have to say Mike’s Clover. Mike built a replica of the Van’s Clover.

The best thing about it is that it’s only a block away from Hooters.
[Laughs] Yep. Everyone goes to Hooters.

Mike’s got a gorgeous pool. It’s amazing how much stuff gets built. It’s like, “Oh, I forgot about that one! Let’s go skate there.”
Yep. You totally forget about stuff because there’s so much stuff we can skate. You could probably skate a different spot every day for a month in just the Denver area alone.

We have all these epic skateparks and backyards. Is that directly related to the fact that a lot of the dudes that work for Grindline or Team Pain call this place home?
Yeah. It seems to be contagious out here for cities and for people in their backyards. I don’t think cities are trying to outdo each other. I think cities are trying to keep up with each other. They want something for those kids to do and they don’t want to have to travel to Arvada to skate, so they’re going to put something in Broomfield to skate.

It takes a lot of petitioning because there is still a prefab epidemic going on. I think the city officials realize it’s something progressive to do to keep the kids busy and happy and, if you do it right, they’re going to stick around.
It’s an investment for the future of that town and for the kids. It’s a smart idea.

I think you nailed it. Who do you think really puts it together and makes things happen out here and contributes to the skate scene?
It’s everyone who has something in their backyard that makes it happen and it’s everyone that has gone to fight at city meetings for getting the right people to build stuff. Obviously, Team Pain has been out here just killing it. Half of them live out here. There are all the Arvada guys like Matty, Wastell, Terrill… There are just so many people out here that take it on from so many different angles. Electricians will come out here and help, like Jeff will come out and help me with wiring. He can’t really frame houses or ramps, but everyone does their part to contribute. I can’t even begin to make the list of everyone that has contributed.

That would be a huge list. It’s been a pleasure, Jerry. Anyone that wants to check out some good Colorado shit, go over to Negativeion.com. Thanks and I’ll talk to you soon, buddy.
Thanks Merk.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #73 AT THE JUICE SHOP…

Jerry Hahn

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